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Columnist Clarence Page Spoke at Rally for Iranian Militant Group

The syndicated columnist and Chicago Tribune editorial board member now says he will return the $20,000 he got to speak at a Mujahadin-e Khalq (MEK) event in Paris in June.

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Clarence Page (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Update July 9, 2012: We reported last week that Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page was paid $20,000 to speak at a rally for an Iranian group designated as a terrorist organization. Page told ProPublica he planned to give back the money. Now, the Tribune has reprimanded Page, saying he violated the paper's editorial ethics code by accepting the speaking gig without approval. It also said he would not have received approval to appear at the Paris event.

"I'm pleased with that; I think it's a sensible settlement of the whole thing," Page told the Tribune. Page also weighed in on the matter in a column over the weekend.

Late last month,  syndicated columnist Clarence Page appeared at a rally in Paris in support of the Mujahadin-e Khalq (MEK), an Iranian group that has been lobbying Washington to be removed from the U.S. government’s list of designated foreign terrorist organizations.

Before a huge crowd waving portraits of MEK leaders Maryam and Massoud Rajavi as well as Iranian flags, Page called for the MEK to be removed from the official terrorist organization list.

Contacted about the appearance by ProPublica, Page said he has decided to give back his speaking fee for the event, as well as reimburse the cost of travel to and from France, which was paid for by a group called the Organizing Committee for Convention for Democracy in Iran.

“I thought they were simply a group of Iranian exiles who were opposed to the regime in Tehran,” Page said. “I later found out they can be construed as a MEK front group, and I don’t think it’s worth it to my reputation to be perceived as a paid spokesman for any political cause.”

Page said he was paid a fee of $20,000 and travel expenses and that he attended the June 23 event during vacation time. He said he just arrived back at work from vacation and has not yet given back the money. He did not have the text of the speech he delivered, but he told ProPublica he spoke in favor of the MEK being removed from the list of  terrorist organizations, a move he expects to occur shortly.

The MEK, which fiercely opposes the current regime in Iran, has  mounted a high-priced lobbying and legal battle to get off the terrorist list in recent years. The group was placed on the list in 1997 by the Clinton Administration, which cited its record of attacks against Iranian targets.  The group also “assassinated several U.S. military personnel and U.S. civilians working on defense projects in Tehran” in the 1970s when the U.S. was allied with the Shah, according to the State Department. The MEK says it has renounced violence. A federal appeals court last month ordered the State Department to decide within four months whether the MEK should remain on the list.

Groups supporting the MEK have paid millions of dollars to attract former officials and retired military officers to appear at events supporting the group in recent years. But because the MEK is an officially designated terrorist organization, it is illegal for Americans to accept money from the MEK itself. NBC reported in March that former officials had received subpoenas as part of a federal probe “focused on whether the former officials may have received funding, directly or indirectly, from the [MEK].”

Besides Page’s role as a columnist whose work is distributed by Tribune Media Services, he is also a member of the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board. Page has not written about Iran in his  column recently, but the Tribune editorial board regularly weighs in on foreign policy. Last month, the paper called on the Obama administration to “ratchet up the economic pressure” on Iran in the dispute over the country’s nuclear program. A spokeswoman for the Tribune did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Organizers assert  that 100,000 people attended the Paris event last month, but that figure has not been independently verified. In a speech, Maryam Rajavi hailed the “unparalleled bipartisan coalition which has challenged the official policy” that labels the MEK a terrorist group.

Others attending the event last month include Newt Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley, former Bush administration official John Bolton, and several former high-ranking military officers.

“When I got involved with it, I saw the stellar list of VIPs who were also on the program, and I saw this to be another conference with another speech,” Page said.

Page said the invitation to the event last month came through his agent Janet LeBrun Cosby and Bethesda-based Speakers Worldwide.

This is the promotional video produced after the event, which Page appears in around the 1:07 mark:

Correction: We incorrectly reported that Clarence Page's invitation to speak at an MEK rally came through the Harry Walker Agency. In fact, while Page has previously worked with the agency, his appearance at the event was organized by Speakers Worldwide.

Isn’t that a cleaver clause in the anti-terrorism law, individuals can not take money from organizations on the government list.  So these organization can not avail themselves of US lawyers to dispute their inclusion on the list.  Another example of no charges, no hearing, no review:The government declares!

THIS was an issue to write a column over?  Clarence Page???

“Contacted about the appearance by ProPublica, Page said he has decided to give back his speaking fee for the event, as well as reimburse the cost of travel to and from France, which was paid for by a group called the Organizing Committee for Convention for Democracy in Iran…

“...Others attending the event last month include Newt Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley, former Bush administration official John Bolton, and several former high-ranking military officers.”

They’re all broke and needed the money, especially Gingrich.

I won’t be overly concerned with what Washington calls a terrorist group. Nelson Mandela’s ANC was on that list for decade, might still be.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7agK8MIJ3T0&feature=youtu.be

Robert Huddleston

July 2, 2012, 3:52 p.m.

Greed influences both Republicans and Democrats as well as the military.

Thanks for the revelation; disgusting as it appears.

Herschel Sparks

July 2, 2012, 3:56 p.m.

What was J. Elliott’s motive in writing an article obviously crafted to embarass a distinguished journalist ? A casual reader of the piece which appeared under an omminous headline, suggesting that Mr. Page was a well compensated supporter and sympathizer of Iranian militants and terrorists, strikes me as a form of yellow journalism not worthy of ProPublica. Given the widespread support of well known conservative and liberal public figures of MEK to be removed from the government’s designated foreign terrorists list, the singling out of Mr. Page was inexcusable. Shame on Pro Publica!

Why don’t you mention some of the other speakers, e.g., John Bolton, and the influence they’re selling?

Mr Page should not be concerned over returning his stipend and expenses as AIPAC will find a way to compensate him…
It is no secret that the MEK is supported by the megalomaniac Zionist Israeli.

Nomadic Politics

July 2, 2012, 4:48 p.m.

According to U.S. law:
“Whoever knowingly provides material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization, or attempts or conspires to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both, and, if the death of any person results, shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life.”
In a 6-to-3 decision, the Supreme court said that, according to the laws found in the Patriot act, the act of teaching members of a foreign terrorist group how to use peaceful means to pursue political goals is illegal.
Chief Justice Roberts quoted a congressional finding in support of his broad reading of the statute:

“[F]oreign organizations that engage in terrorist activity are so tainted by their criminal conduct that any contribution to such an organization facilitates that conduct.”

ANY contribution, one might assume, would include being a speaker.

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney claimed last December that he had never heard of MEK despite the embarrassing fact that Mitchell Reiss, his foreign policy adviser and a known Mujahedin-e-Khalq supporter, had spoken at a MEK rally just the previous weekend.

http://nomadicpolitics.blogspot.com/2012/04/mek-and-hypocrisy-of-anti-terrorism-war.html

What would you have published had he supported the tyrants of Tehran? So MEK is an anti-regime group with a a terrorist wing.  How many times has that precluded US support in the past?  My enemy’s enemy is my friend.  As fir being a Zionist front plane, I suppose you have the proof?

In response to Mr Miller…
Do not be confused by the Zionist Isarali propaganda…
Re: Quote….“The group also “assassinated several U.S. military personnel and U.S. civilians working on defense projects in Tehran” in the 1970s when the U.S. was allied with the Shah”, ...and, today, are tools of the Mossad in carrying out assinations…

“When I got involved with it, I saw the stellar list of VIPs who were also on the program, and I saw this to be another conference with another speech,” Page said.” It is laughable that a major American journalist should claim that he innocently attended a MEK gathering because he was impressed with the stellar list of VIPs. He implies that he knows little about MEK and went because of the stellar roster. That is so feeble.

And what about the other stellar speakers?  Did they accept money from the “terrorist” organization?  Why are you only reporting on Page’s financial bonanza?

Grant Ritchie

July 2, 2012, 9:01 p.m.

Geez, Clarence… didn’t it occur to you to Google MEK before you took twenty grand from them?  The way you handled this makes you look like a fool and insults MEK.

I don’t think this is a newsworthy article.  Professional speakers speak when they are paid their fee.  Must have been a good speech for $20,000.

Anne Marie Martinez

July 3, 2012, 1 a.m.

Thank you, Grant Ritchie, my sentiments exactly.  When did you stop ressearching?

What’s the big deal about speaking for money or competing small minded Group? Is Bilderberg group with trillions of dollars, scared of these new ‘Wanna be crocodile’ just like the dominating, further greedy, small minded existent ones? Stjnky books of old laws need re-written.

This article goes pretty lightly on the atrocious MEK. Besides killing Americans in Iran, the MEK also took part in taking Americans hostage before it broke with the current Iranian regime and went into exile. It has engaged in a worldwide terror campaign since then. It is a bizarre Marxist cult of personality that treats its own members with as much brutality as it directs rather indiscriminately against Iranians. These are a sick bunch of people, and the fact that Bolton, Gingrich, Dean, Rendell, and others are willing to take their money speaks volumes about their own credibility.

Everybody, keep in mind that there’s no problem with offering a group moral support or speaking at their events.  That’s protected by the First Amendment, provided no other laws (security violations or incitement, say) are violated.

The objection in Page’s case is that he took a significant amount of money from a group our goverment defines as terrorist to do so.  It colors his actions back in the States, because any support for MEK (in this case) could be due to a business relationship rather than personal belief.

The law itself isn’t a bad idea, overall, even if the list is flawed.

sam aghajanian

July 3, 2012, 12:25 p.m.

Regardless, if an organization is considered Terrorist under US laws then It’s illigal for Gingrich, Bolton, Page, Julliani, Dean, Rendell and them others to participate in promoting their cause in any type or form.The motive is very clear here, drumbeat for more sanctions and war…
Is Darrel now going to ask the above US freedom lovers How they could illigally participate in MEK’s Rally? or he is still tied up in Fast & Furious!!!!!

Seymour Hersh post in the New Yorker about the terrorist group MEK members were brought to the US from 2005 to 2008 and trained at US military base in Nevada!!! Massoud Rajavi has been in hiding for years! His wife is the MEK spokesman. WHERE are the MEK getting all their money, to hire a top attorney in New York to represent them and how can they pay for all these speaker fees and pay lobbyist to go around Washington D.C. asking members of Congress to support their being taken off the terrorist list? The MEK did NOT support the Shah! They supported the Ayatollah! Is it the MEK that is in Iran killing the scientist and setting the computer virus’? Follow the money! Are the Saudi’s bankrolling them too? What hypocrisy!

Mr. Page you are great, brave, and you stood on the right side of history. What they did to you is basically another favor to the Ayatollahs in Iran. I think media should do little home work like all the high courts in EU and US did. Then they would find out you did the right thing. US must not put unlawful pressure on the Iran’s main opposition. Instead should listen to the US court of Appeal and take them off of the FTO list. It is very un-American to call freedom lovers Terrorist in order to open line of negotiations with the real terrorists (government of Iran.).

In response to Rose 75….
You mean to say that an organization which has admitted killing American servicemen and civilians in the 1970s and supported the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and now are Mossad hired assassin is not a terrorist organization?  Just where are your loyalties?

The Americans overthrew a legitimately elected government and installed the Shah, whose reign of terror ended in a popular uprising. The US shot down a civilian plane in Iranian airspace… totally unnecessary, uncalled for and indefensible. Sorry, who are the terrorists again?

Response to Albert Meyer….
What has your comment to do with the MEK…????

For all those who are trying to excuse or justify Page and his atrocious conduct, all you have to do is read the portion of the statute provided by Nomadic Politics, or read the Humanitarian Law decision from the Supreme Court. It’s there, in plain English, and is as broad as the day is long. We have imprisoned many people here in the US (especially Muslims) for doing less than what Page, Guiliani, et al have done. This is not hard stuff - why should public figures be exempt from the laws that apply to the rest of us?  Giving back the money? He’s lucky he isn’t facing a 15 year prison term.

No way ‘‘they’’ don’t need the money so please DONATE it to a children’s education charity.